Railroad ordered to pay damages and legal fees to seven employees

Metro-North has been cited by OSHA for disciplining workers who followed physicians instructions. OSHA's investigations found that between 2011 and 2013, the employees with duty stations in New Haven or Stamford were issued written warnings under the railroad's attendance policy when they each followed the orders of their physician to stay out of work. Five were carmen, one an electrician, and one a foreman.

Anti-Discrimination provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) prohibits railroad carriers from disciplining or threatening to discipline employees who follow a physician's orders or treatment plan. Robert Hopper, the acting regional administrator for New England, indicated that Metro-North's policy of making employees ignore a treating physician's medical instructions or face discipline is unacceptable. While Metro-North says it has since changed this policy, this type of procedure, which endangers employees and the public and is illegal under the FRSA, should not exist."

The employees filed complaints with OSHA, which found merit to the complaints, and ordered Metro-North to pay each employee $1,000 in compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys' fees. The railroad must also expunge the written warnings from each employee's personnel record and post a workplace notice informing employees of their FRSA anti-discrimination rights. Either party in these cases can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.

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